January 30, 2015

SB Smirk IV: Katy Perry promises your face will melt at halftime; plus, POLL: Do controversies make you like NFL less? Vote now!; also Kaaya and Heisman, Seattle fans 'n weed & more

1) It is FRIDAY, JANUARY 30. I'm embedded at Random Evidence Laboratories today dreaming up the Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Bowl With a Smirk III, Villain Bowl poll, no-drone-zone, Wade injury, UM football schedule & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Kaaya on early Heisman watch list: Canes QB Brad Kaaya has early 33-1 odds to win the next Heisman Trophy, tied for 18th best in country as per Bovada. Favorite right now at 6-1 is Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott.

1aa1apickpats 1aa1acotepixSuper Bowl pick: Patriots, 27-23: It's official. (If only that meant it's sure to be right). I discuss the evenness of this game and why it looks like two great teams portending a classic-to-be Super Bowl. Also I detail the one edge that makes New England my pick. Click on SB Gem for the full prediction capsule.

SUPER BOWL WITH A SMIRK IV: KATY PERRY PROMISES TO MELT YOUR FACE. IS THAT A GOOD THING?: Today's fourth of our five daily Super Bowl With a Smirk notes columns leads with the 1aa1akatyp 1aa1alionpickSunday halftime show featuring Katy Perry, who conducted a revealing press

conference on Thursday, wearing the outfit she'll have on at halftime (pictured right). I'M JUST KIDDIN'! She'll wear clothes. Who do you think she is, Miley 1aa1aguadalupeCyrus? Katy admitted some pre-recorded music would be used and said "faces
will melt" in reaction to a surprise female guest. Melting faces. Sounds creepy. (Word has since leaked that the "surprise" guest will be Missy Elliott, a rapper who was pretty big circa 1997-2005). Click on Smirk IV for the full column.
1aa1achickensAlso included today: Marshawn Lynch speaks (sort of), unlikable head coaches, Richard Sherman's baby, drones, Vulcan the lion, nuns, counterfeit merchandise and the National Chicken Council. [Previously: Smirk III, Smirk IISmirk I].

SMIRK IV POLL: IMPACT OF NFL CONTROVERSIES: The Ray Rice video, concussions, "Deflategate" -- controversies are nothing new in the NFL, and each of them spark outrage, and yet the NFL seems as popular as ever. Time for you to weigh in if you'd like:

Poll result: Pats the bad guy in Villain Bowl: Two black-hat teams here, both disliked beyond their fandoms, so we asked which makes the better villain. You said Patriots, 71.1 percent to Seahawks' 28.9%.

SUPER BOWL = BIG BUSINESS FOR SEATTLE POT INDUSTRY: Medical and recreational marijuana are legal in Washington State, and a retailer in Seattle called Solstice is rolling 12,000 joints for Sunday in anticipation of a spike in business. Cannot confirm that Seahawks fans, when asked what they are most looking forward to in Sunday's game, answered, "the snacks." [Note: So my boss doesn't get mad, this item and the following video are NOT an endorsement of marijuana, which sources tell me is evil and perhaps also wicked]. 


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January 13, 2015

The curious, shameful skepticism about Rob Konrad's tale of survival; plus elevating Urban Meyer, 'Shameless,' your Super Bowl pick & more


It's Radio Tuesday!: We're in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio -- our 46th national show. Have a new "Back In My Day" ready to roll. Ears welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, JANUARY 13. Today is my parents' anniversary date, which led to the creation of me. See, people used to get married first and then have kids. How quaint! 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): AFC/NFC title-game polls, Hassan Whiteside, history of Heat 7-footers, Canton verdict & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Buckeyes favored to repeat: Love the instant odds! Confetti is still falling on Ohio State and already OSU is installed as a 6-1 favorite to win next saeson's national title, via Bovada. TCU is next at 15-2, then Alabama at 10-1. Further down we see Florida State 16-1, Florida 33-1 and Miami 75-1.

Wade ninth in jersey sales: Updated NBA jersey sales rankings are out, with Heat's Dwyane Wade No. 9. The top five: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose.

WHY THE DOUBTERS ON ROB KONRAD?: You probably know the Rob Konrad story by now. Ex-Dolphins fullback falls overboard while fgishing along last week, watches his boat onautopilot motor away from 1aa1akonradhim, and spends 16 hours at sea, somehow surviving. I tell the extraordinary tale today in a column off yesterday's first public comments by Konrad. Click on Survivor to read it. (Konrad and wife Tammy are pictured from the news conference). I find Konrad's story to be absolutely true and close to miraculous. There are doubters, though. I address that briefly in the longer-version column that appears online, writing, "It is our human nature to be skeptical, so there may be some who doubt parts of this tale simply because they cannot fathom 16 hours alone at sea. Me, I hope I am never so cynical that I stop believing in man’s capacity for heroism." Sure enough, a few emailers have cast doubt on Konrad -- as if he created and involved his wife, family and friends in an elaborate hoax. Some early media accounts (here is one from Newsweek.com published Friday) also wonder if the story is too good to be true. I do not consider myself naive. My profession demands that a critical eye is my default view of just about everything. But I believe Rob Konrad. Now, more than before, maybe I believe a little in miracles, too. And I feel a little bit sorry for those who can't.

ELEVATING URBAN: Ohio State coach Urban Meyer (pictured) now is a three-time national champion 1aa1ameyeru(two with the Gators) after last night's resounding 42-20 spanking of Oregon in the first playoff-era college championship game. And with a third-string quarterback! I'm no Urban fan, but I must say it may be time to elevate him to the pantheon of great college coaches. Only Bear Bryant (5), Frank Leahy (4) and Nick Saban (4) have won more recognized major-college titles. Meyer and Saban are now racing to see who catches and passes the great Bear first. Age alone suggests Meyer, 50, has a better chance than Saban, 63, to retire as the college game's most decorated coach.

ON 'SHAMELESS': How much I love my wife came clear Monday night when I agreed to watch the Golden 1aa1aemmyrGlobes with her (women and awards shows!), and delay watching the season debut of Shameless until last night on demand. I love the Showtime series. William H. Macy's Frank Gallagher might be the greatest character on TV, and I have a Creepy Old Guy Crush on Emmy Rossum (pictured, as Fiona). The entire cast is an exercise in relentless dysfunction that is both hilarious and sad. Fellow Shamelessites know what I mean. The rest of you, get on board.

Poll result: You like Seahawks and Patriots even more in NFL title games: We asked your predictions for the upcoming AFC and NFC championship games and it was Patriots over Colts by 74.0 percent and Seahawks over Packers by 63.3%.

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January 06, 2015

Dolphins hire Tannenbaum; plus my Hall of Fame ballot and, yes, it includes Bonds and Clemens. Would your's? New poll. Vote now!; also gay marriage, fake Beach Boys & more


It's Radio Tuesday: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today after a two-week holiday hiatus, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. A new "Back In My Day" segment is in hand. Ears welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, JANUARY 6. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package after a two-week holiday hiatus. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins-draft-needs poll, happy birthday Shula, R.I.P. Stuart Scott, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

DOLPHINS HIRE TANNENBAUM AS DIRECTOR OF FOOTBALL OPS: The Dolphins today hired Mike Tannenbaum, formerly of the Jets, as executive vice president of pro football operations -- the old Bill Parcells role. He reportedly will oversee (and have firing power over) GM Dennis Hickey but not over coach Joe Philbin. Hickey can't be happy, although he reportedly maintains final say over the 53-man roster. What this means: Owner Stephen Ross doesn't quite trust Philbin or Hickey. Dolphins in flux. Again.

On Heat, Panthers: Click on Falling, Rising for today's column by me. It's on how the Heat and Panthers both are headed for a fight just to make the playoffs, and how that's an indignity for one club but a triumph for the other.

MY HALL OF FAME BALLOT INCLUDES BONDS, CLEMENS THIS YEAR: Update: Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz and Biggio elected. I voted for all four. Update 30 minutes before vote announced: The website baseballthinkfactory.org, based on a screening of voters, projects the five inductees today will be, in order of support: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio and (narrowly) Mike Piazza. Original post: The latest inductees into Cooperstown are to be announced today at 2 p.m. I became a Baseball Hall of Fame voter for the first time a year ago, and did not include any "Steroids Era" guys on my ballot. It was personal. I felt my first- 1aa1abondsclemsnsever ballot should be as "clean" as the sport aspires to be. This year, however, I voted for both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (pictured). My 10 votes in all went to, alphabetically: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Nomar Garciaparra, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Gary Sheffield and John Smoltz. For the record I think Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz will get in. I think Sheffield has a good chance. I think Carlos Delgado and Mike Piazza have a shot. I do not think a sufficient 75 percent of my BBWAA brethren are ready yet to join me on Bonds and Clemens. My thinking on those two: Their career numbers are so extraordinary, so enormous, that they would have been Cooperstown-worthy even without PEDs. (I am much less sure on Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and others). I also believe the Hall of Fame is not the Hall of Sainthood. I further believe that guys like Bonds and Clemens (yes, and Pete Rose) have been punished enough by their previous barring from Cooperstown and by their public shaming. Of course all of that is moot as I fully expect both men to fall well short of the Hall again today. I respect my colleagues who continue take the highest moral ground on this. Hopefully they in turn respect those of us who have come to think otherwise -- at least on Bonds and Clemens. Here's a poll inviting your thoughts on this. Vote and say why you feel as you do.

Poll result: Guard, linebacker top Dolphin draft needs: We asked what position the Dolphins should target with the top pick in next NFL Draft, and among eight choice offensive guard (34.9 percent) and linebacker (27.0%) dominated. Defensive tackle (15.9%) and cornerback (12.6%) were next.

1aa1agaymarriageIT'S ABOUT TIME, FLORIDA: Congratulations to my home state for stepping gingerly into the 21st Century in becoming the 36th state to legalize same-sex marriage. And to Floridian gay couples for finally gaining their equal rights. Who are you, I or the government to tell any loving couple they are second-class citizens? Of course, with gay marriages inevitably will come gay divorces and the spawn of gay-divorce lawyers as a specialty practice. Oh how I wish I were kidding.     

BOYCOTT THE SEMI-BEACH BOYS!: The Beach Boys (sort of) play Thursday night in West Palm Beach, but, if you have tickets, beware. You are getting half the product. I'd ask for my money back. This is the version 1aa1amloveof the Beach Boys hijacked by frontman Mike Love (pictured), who unfortunately owns the group name. He is touring with only one other original Beach Boy, Bruce Johnstone. The group toured last year with all its original living members -- including Al Jardine, David Marks and, of course, the irreplacable Brian Wilson -- but Love essentially fired the other three. Boycott Mike Love. Boycott the fake, sort of, semi-Beach Boys. (Or at least smuggle in a 'WE WANT BRIAN WILSON!' sign).

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January 02, 2015

College championship game vs. Super Bowl? New poll. Vote now!; plus NFL playoff picks, CFP semifinals, LeBron-leaving voted top story & more

1) It is SATURDAY, JANUARY 3. I've back in Random Evidence Laboratories conjuring the return of the Sunday notes-column package. Wooo! 2) R.I.P., Mario Cuomo, 82, for me, always a noble voice in American politics. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Our year-end biggest national sports story poll, CFP semifinals, OB result & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

PRO: OUR NFL WILD-CARD WEEKEND PLAYOFF PICKS: Twelve teams have found what to the Dolphins has become the lost and unreachable island called the Playoffs, and the Super Bowl tournament begins with 1aa1afripix 1aa1anflposeight of those teams -- all but the top four seeds -- in action this weekend. Click on Wild-Card Gems for all four expanded prediction capsules, plus our final regular-season results. I pick two teams (Steelers, Cowboys) to cover, one team (Panthers) to win but not cover, and one outright upset (Bengals over Colts). Click on Playoff Picture for my Friday NFL column. I rank all 12 postseason teams in order of likelihood they'll win the Super Bowl, and also hand out my season-ending King Sport awards.

COLLEGE: O MY! OREGON, OHIO STATE REACH TITLE GAME: The historic first College Football Playoff has reached next week's championship game after Thursday's semifinals, in which Oregon clubbed 1aa1acfp1

1aa1acfp2Florida State in the Rose Bowl, 59-20, and then Ohio State stunned Alabama in the Sugar, 42-35. The Ducks unseating the Seminoles was expected. Here's how much the Buckeyes beating the Crimson Tide was not: Only one of 42 ESPN experts called OSU's win. For the Jan. 12 title game in Arlington, Tex., Oregon is installed as generally a 7 to 7.5-point favorite, with the over/under in the 70-74 range. The game gets a true power in Heisman Trophy-led Oregon and a sort of Cinderella in Ohio State, considering its quarterback injuries. But I can't help but feel America at large would have preferred and turned Alabama-FSU into a bigger TV draw. I may be wrong.

NOW, THE CHOICE: IF YOU COULD ONLY PICK ONE...: I know. If you're like me and most sports fans, you wouldn't want to choose. You want both. You'll watch both. But what if you had to pick between the College Football Playoff championship game and the Super Bowl? It isn't about who's playing; for the purpose of the poll assume your team isn't in it. The poll isn't asking about your interst in Oregon-Ohio State vs. your interest in a specific Super Bowl matchup. It's more about which version of football you prefer, right? Vote and say why.

Poll result: LeBron leaving Heat for Cleveland your top Miami sports story of 2014: We gave you 10 story-of-the-year choices, you voted for your top three, and the overall winner was LeBron James leaving the Heat for Cleveland with 28.3 percent. The poll survived an attempted hijacking (and an embarrassment) by the anti-Al Golden crowd, who voted the pressure on Golden after a 6-7 season into second place at 27.4%. Next came Giancarlo Stanton's record contract extension at 14.2%, Heat losing in NBA Finals at 11.8% and Dolphins missing playoffs again at 8.0%.

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January 01, 2015

What was Miami/South Florida's biggest sports story of 2014? Poll. Last chance to vote!; plus Oregon hammers FSU, Ohio State stuns 'Bama & more

1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 1. Happy New Year, all! Let's make it a great one! 2) In The 
Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBron and D-Wade plotting reunion?, Orange Bowl game interest poll, Cats sign Bjugstad, NFL Pix results & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

A message from me to you: To all our readers, print and online, to our Blog Family and radio listeners and to our followers and friends on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Vine ... thank you! You made it another great past year and make me look forward to 2015.

More Cowbell!: Click on More Cowbell for my column from last night's Orange Bowl game. I write how Georgia Tech was up to the big stage in its 49-34 win; Mississippi State was not.

1aa1amiami2014WHAT WAS MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA'S BIGGEST SPORTS STORY OF 2014?: We do this every year. We asked you last week to name the past year's top national sports story and you did (results below). Now we invite you to select the 2014 Miami/South Florida sports story of the year, from an alphabetically presented top 10 of my choosing. You may vote for your top three (3). I offer no synopsis beyond what's in the poll, because if it needs further explaining, it obviously wasn't that big/impactful/important to you. Remember, you can choose your top three. Ready? Vote!

Your national sports story of year was...: We asked you to vote for the 2014 national sports story of the year from among The Associated Press' top 10, and LeBron James going home was your top choice with 22.2 percent, followed by Donald Sterling's NBA ouster (20.7%) and NFL domestic violence (18.9%).

O MY! OREGON, OHIO STATE REACH TITLE GAME: Ohio State upsets Alabama 42-35 in last night's late semifinal ending at 12:42 a.m. (which is ridiculous). Not sure if Urban Meyer winning feels any better than Nick Saban losing. In the first game Oregon hammers Florida State 59-20. Turnovers killed FSU as much as the Ducks did. Don't eviscerate the Noles too much, though. Champions; 29 straight. Great run. Respect. ..... Original post: What the Free World has clamored for so long -- a College Football Playoff -- bursts from concept to reality today with the two CFP semifinals: Oregon vs. Florida State in the Rose Bowl at 5 p.m., then Alabama vs. Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl at 8:30. The doubleheader will do monstrous TV ratings nationally , and should even fly high in nonchalant South Florida. Here, the large FSU alumni fan base and our natural disdain for Nick Saban assures interest. (Then again, rooting against Nick means rooting for Urban Meyer. LIFE ISN'T FAIR! ESPN polled its 43 college football experts (which is about 38 too many, by the way), and the picks were Oregon over FSU by 31-12 and 'Bama over OSU by (ouch) 42-1. Eventual-champion votes were Alabama 21, Oregon 18, FSI 1 and Urban 0. The asterisk in the headline? Me. I agree with the consensus on the Tide rolling, but think the Seminoles -- undefeated yet maligned -- will upset the mighty Ducks. Can't wait! 

Poll result: Interest in Orange Bowl game was low: We asked your interest level in last night's Georgia Tech-Mississippi State Orange Bowl game, and most voted "non-existent" (49.2 percent) or "low" (23.4%). The rest voted "medium" (18.4%) or "high" (9.0%).

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December 31, 2014

LeBron, Wade talk about reuniting?; plus Georgia Tech swamps Mississippi State in OB game 49-34; also big Cats news, NFL Pix results & more

1aa1anewyearseve1) It is WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 31. Happy New Year's Eve! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins lose to Jets, DSM poll, Duke Johnson goes pro & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.


ARE LEBRON AND D-WADE PLOTTING TO REUNITE?: Conspiracy theorists done with examining the Zapruder film for shadows on the grassy knoll have turned to enflaming Internet 1aa1adwlebronspecualtion that LeBron James already is tiring of his situation in Cleveland and plotting to reunite with Dwyane Wade. It stems from a 2 minute 53 second video (click HERE to watch) from the Cavs' Christmas Day game in Miami. The game has just ended and as the video is fading out, at about the 2:45 mark, James is saying something to Wade, something muddled but not quite inaudible. Well, folks with way too much free time, and also better audio equipment than mine, swear that James says to Wade: "Like I said, If we aren't better this year, we're gonna reunite again and do some bigger and better things, alright?" That could mean anything from buying a team together to an off-court business deal, but of course the rampant implication is that James returning to Miami might somehow be plausible. Or at least remotely possible. Seems thoroughly unlikely, of course. But then again so did LeBron coming to Miami in the first place, once. 

1aa1abowlorangeGEORGIA TECH-MISSISSIPPI STATE A GOOD MATCHUP. BUT DO WE CARE?: Wednesday night's 81st Orange Bowl game, No. 7 Mississippi State vs. No. 12 Georgia Tech, looks to be an entertaining matchup. Only two bowls other than the two College Football Playoff semifinals offer a higher-ranked matchup. But does South Florida care? Are we as a community excited? I'm not sure. That's why I'm asking!

Explaining "without championship pedigree...": In today's Orange Bowl preview column by me -- read it HERE -- I refer to this matchup as "non-traditional powers without championship pedigrees." That has led many Georgia Tech fans to blast me on Twitter and by email. For the record, GT claims national titles in 1917, 1928, 1952 and 1990 (which I knew when writing what I did), but has never won a BCS-era title or been anointed by The Associated Press. In '90 the Jackets were No. 1 in the (now-defunct) UPI Coaches poll, but Colorado won the bigger, more recognized AP crown that season. I think it's fair to say GT's first three claimed titles were relatively minor ones and that the one in '90 was, at best, a split title. Some in and around Atlanta may call that "championship pedigree." I don't.

1aa1abjugstadPANTHERS SIGN BJUGSTAD LONG-TERM: This is big if you're a SoFla hockey fan. Cats today sign forward Nick Bjugstad, 22, the team's leading scorer, to a six-year deal. He's a guy you build around. And they are. 

NFL PIX: A WEEK 17 BEATING ON THE BET-LINE: We update you briefly every Tuesday on how we did 1aa1afripixthe previous NFL weekend with our published predictions. Went an OK 10-6 overall as King Sport wrapped up its regular season, but we were a miserable, season-worst 5-11 against the spread. Had two 'dogs-with-points in Buccaneers and Panthers and hit a perfect score exacto in Packers' 30-20 win, but not much else went right. To the playoffs!

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December 26, 2014

What was 2014's biggest national sports story? New poll. Vote now!; plus Dolphins/NFL Week 17 picks, reflections on LeBron's return to Miami & more

1) It is FRIDAY, DECEMBER 26. Hope y'all had a wonderful holiday! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): My annual Christmas video to you, Heat beat LeBron & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

YOU PICK THE 2014 NATIONAL SPORTS STORY OF THE YEAR: Welcome to our annual year-ending blog 1aa1abiggest2014vote. The top 10 stories in our poll are not mine; they are from The Associated Press official annual ranking, newly out. I list them alphabetically, not in 1-through-10 order, so your vote will be more independent and not influenced by The AP's rank. I am purposely not including a synopsis of each, figuring that if the ballot phrase alone is not sufficient, chances are the story mustn't have been that big or important to you. VOTE FOR YOUR TOP THREE and check back to monitor evolving results. And remember, this is a national list, so please endeavor to consider your vote in that broad context. Ready? Let's go!

Note: Your 2013 national sports story of the year was the Boston Marathon bombings, followed by the Heat winning the NBA championship and, in third place, the Aaron Hernandez arrest. Watch for our poll on the Greater Miami sports story of the year in this space soon.

1aa1afripixDOLPHINS, NFL WEEK 17 PICKS: FINAL TWO PLAYOFF TICKETS UP FOR GRABS: : Ten playoff seats are taken, two are open as King Sport reaches its final regular-season week with all 16 games happening on Sunday, as God intended it. Six teams are alive for those two spots (San Diego and Atlanta will grab them). Click on Week 17 Gems for all our latest NFL prediction capsules. Click NFL Still Preening for my weekly Friday Page column, leading with how this time of season helps the sport focus on what it does best and helps us forget the league's off-field woes.

1aa1ajameslPOST-MORTEM ON LEBRON'S FIRST RETURN: I wrote from the arena last night. Click on Heat Wins, So Does Miami for my column. The Heat was great in its 101-91 win, sans Chris Bosh again. Dwyane Wade channeled his high-flying prime in a brilliant first half. Luol Deng was the best I've seen him this year, on both ends of the court. Even Danny Granger showed glimpses of why Miami got him. That team (that effort), plus Bosh, is a Miami that no opponent will want to face in the first round of the playoffs. Miami the city, and its fans, also won big last night. The response mostly was classy, amicable -- the opposite of how Cleveland treated LeBron's return four years earlier. James is shown acknowledging the warm ovation following a tribute video. Well done, Miami. Team, and fans.

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December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas! Heat beat LeBron, Cavs 101-91; plus my holiday video to you (with some special guests), Cooperstown results & more

1) It is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 25. Merry Christmas, celebrants! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Cooperstown poll, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, Josh Smith, Miami Beach Bowl & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1axmas14MERRY CHRISTMAS! A HOLIDAY VIDEO FROM ME TO YOU: A few friends took time from their busy holiday to join me to make this Chistmas video. They are the two coaches you love to hate and hate to love, the superstar who stayed, and the one who left. Pictured from left to right are LeBron James, Joe Philbin, myself, Giancarlo Stanton and Al Golden. Click HERE for the video. Enjoy. And happy holidays!

HEAT SPOIL LEBRON'S RETURN: You know I hate the NBA playing games on Christmas. But if you must have a game, it might as be LeBron James' first return to Miami since leaving for Cleveland. And a 101-91 Miami win led by Dwyane Wade's 31 points and Luol Deng's 25. LeBron had 30 for the Cavs on an amicable night that heard more cheers than boos for James. The fans' reaction to LeBron is what was most notable about today, although the result was unexpectedly exhilirating.

Poll result: Randy Johnson leads your parade to Cooperstown: We gave you a 22-player ballot and only four men received the equivalent of the 75 percent vote that would be necessary for induction. They were, in order, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and (barely) Barry Bonds.

Have a wonderful holiday!

December 24, 2014

Cooperstown calling: Here's your Hall of Fame ballot. New poll. Vote now!; plus NFL Pix ' Fantasy, Heat/Josh Smith, Miami Beach Bowl & more

Radio hiatus: The Dan LeBatard Show was off for the holidays yesterday and is again next week, so my Tuesday in-studio appearances will resume Jan. 6. 

1aa1aceve1) It is WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 24. Merry Christmas Eve! I really must start my Christmas shopping. Seriously. 2) I have zero problem with Joe Philbin declining to address whether his coordinators would be back next season. That should not be construed as non-support. Expect Bill Lazor and Kevin Coyle both to return. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): DSM poll and keeping-Philbin poll results, Dolphins beat Chargers & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

"Getting ready for LeBron by losing to the 76ers is like preparing for a marathon by failing to finish a 5K." --Greg Cote

1aa1abbhallCOOPERSTOWN CALLING: HERE IS YOUR HALL OF FAME BALLOT: I have completed my baseball Hall of Fame ballot and will reveal my choices later. First I want to offer my readers a chance to vote. The official ballot had 34 names. I weeded out 12 guys who have zero shot or frankly don't even deserve to be listed. (Sorry, Cliff Floyd. You're in the Hall of Very Good). I present here, alphabetically, the other 22 on the official ballot. Vote for as many as 10, but only those you think deserve to be in Cooperstown. Asterisks indicate players on the ballot for the first time. Remember, you may vote for as many as 10. Go!

How to interpret the ongoing voting results: Because the maximum vote is 10 each, a player's highest possible percentage of the overall would be 10 percent if everyone voted the max. In other words, any player at 7.5% or above is meeting the BBWAA equivalent of a 75 percent vote for induction. (Only five of 22 were when last I checked). By the way, for those wondering, this poll does not violate BBWAA rules and won't get me in trouble a la Le Batard. As I said, my ballot is already completed.

HEAT INTEREST IN JOSH SMITH FEELS MOOT: Can't see much reason why released 1aa1ajsmithPiston Josh Smith won't opt to sign with Houston for its far greater championship chance. Miami's interest shows the desperation of a 13-15 team with a need at power forward, with Josh McRobert lost for the season. The 6-9 Smith would fill that need. But he also was shooting 39 percent when Detroit waived him. And he carries the "chemsitry" baggage, of course. I think he's worth the risk, and Heat can offer him big minutes. Can't see him not landing in the West, though.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: AN UPLIFTING WEEK 16, BOTH WAYS: We update you briefly every 1aa1aarkstate 1aa1afripixTuesday on how we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and our fantasy-league team. Pix: Went 11-5 outright and a nifty 10-6 against the line, including another Upset of the Week ("Aawwk!") with Raiders over Bills. Also had Giants' upset of Rams and four other 'dogs with points. Fantasy: Greg's Lobos, relegated to the consolation round, at least salvaged a closing 107-83 win led by Marshawn Lynch's 24 points to finish 8-8. Congrats to our league champion, Mom's Maniacs!

BIG DEBUT FOR MIAMI BEACH BOWL: Memphis beating BYU 55-48 in double overtime constituted a great debut for the Miami Beach Bowl yesterday. The draw at Marlins Park, 20,761, wasn't great but not terrible, either. Even the postgame brawl, while damnable, gave the game added attention. Great start. Now let's seed if the Boca Raton Bowl debuts as successfully this evening.

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December 19, 2014

Dolphins, NFL Week 16 picks: 0.725%; plus Fleetwood Mac, state bowl-game winners, Heat 'n Panthers morphing, Marlins-Yanks trade, NBA-on-Christmas verdict & more

1) It is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20. No Random EVidence this week. The Sunday notes-column package is off for the holidays. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NBA-on-Christmas poll, Heat skid, Panthers surge, Philbin/Golden verdict, U.S.-Cuba relations & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

DOLPHINS, NFL WEEK 16 PICKS: "0.725%": The percentage at left represents the less than 1-in-100 playoff likelihood for Miami right now as it hosts the Vikings on Sunday, according to computer estimations 1aa1afripixfrom makenflplayoffs.com. Miami has the second-worst odds of any of 21 teams still mathematically alive (ahead of only Cleveland). It'll be win-and-pray for the Dolphins and several other teams as the better clubs clinch remaining playoff spots. Click on Week 16 Gems for all our latest NFL prediction capsules, which have a playoff-piocture theme. (Strong start to our week Thursday night with a near exacto. Jags beat Titans 21-13; I had it 20-13). Also, click on Overlooking Landry for my weekly Friday Page column. It posits that the Fins' Jarvis Landry is having a season that, most years, would merit offensive rookie-of-the-year consideration, but that, unfortunately for him, this is a particularly bounteous year for rookie wide receivers.

LET'S GO BOWLING: The glut of 39 bowls games begins Saturday. Astonishingly, 11 of the bowls (28%) either involve a Florida team or are played in our state. We rank those 11 by interest in South Florida, with state ties underlined, and with predictions by ESPN's Mark Schlabach:

1aa1adepend1. Rose (College Football Playoff semifinal): Oregon 42, Florida State 31. Jan. 1, 5 p.m., Pasadena, CA.

2. Duck Commander Independence: Miami 27, South Carolina 20. Dec. 27, 3:30 p.m., Shreveport, LA.

3. Birmingham: East Carolina 27, Florida 23. Jan. 3, noon, Birmingham, AL.

4. Capital One Orange: Georgia Tech 34, Mississippi State 30. Dec. 31, 8 p.m., Dolphins stadium.

5. Miami Beach: Memphis 31, BYU 24. Dec. 22, 2 p.m., Marlins Park.

6. Boca Raton: Marshall 45, Northern Illinois 38. Dec. 23, 6 p.m., FAU Stadium.

7. Bitcoin St. Petersburg: North Carolina State 21, UCF 20. Dec. 26, 8 p.m., St. Pete.

8. Outback: Auburn 42, Wisconsin 35. Jan. 1, noon, Tampa.

9. Russell Athletic: Oklahoma 31, Clemson 20. Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m., Orlando.

10. Citrus: Missouri 24, Minnesota 20. Jan. 1, 1 p.m., Orlando.

11. Taxslayer: Tennessee 28, Iowa 17. Jan. 2, 3:20 p.m., Jacksonville.

ON FLEETWOOD MAC: Saw the legendary band at the Sunrise arena last night and thought it was a great show. I've never been a huge FM fan beyond the obligatory heydays love of the Rumours LP, but as a huge pop music fan I am drawn to seeing all-time great perfomers I've not seen before. Thoughts: Lindsay Buckingham is a better guitar player live than is heard on records, but is rather insufferable as a frontman, his ego unhidden. Founding father Mick Fleetwood is terrific on drums and a delight to watch. Bassist John McVie gets too lost; he's too invisble, not musically, but onstage. Stevie Nicks is still playing the gypsy-poet. Not a huge fan of her voice but she is a commanding stage presence. The star, for me, is Christine McVie on vocals and keyboards. I don't think I would have gone to the show had she not rejoined the band.


1aa1ampradoMARLINS-YANKEES MAKE TRADE: Marlins today acquired infielder Martin Prado (pictured), pitcher David Phelps and cash from Yankees for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, first baseman Garrett Jones and minor league pitcher Domingo German. I'd call it a medium trade, certainly not a big one. Prado, 31, who hit .282 with 26 doubles and 12 homers last year, will compete to start at third base. Phelps, 28, could emerge as a No. 5 starter.

HEAT, PANTHERS HAVE BECOME SAME TEAM: For years the Heat preened and reigned, and the Panthers were the forgotten and forlorn afterthought. Now the two teams have met in the middle: Mediocrity. They have morphed into the same team. The previous four seasons, the Heat's winning percentage was .718 and the Panthers' .381. This season:

Team        Record            Pos.    L10    Strk

Panthers    14-16, .467    T-7th   6-4    W2

Heat          12-14, .462     7th      3-7    L1 

Poll result: Most don't like NBA playing on Christmas: With the LeBron-at-Heat Christmas Day game looming, we asked what you thought of the NBA playing games on the holiday, and 61.2 percent were against versus 34.0% who were OK with it. The other 4.8% were undecided.

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